A DIRECTOR whose company misled an elderly couple prior to them agreeing to put their property in trust has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds.

Andrew Stewart Hesketh ran a firm which provided information to the County Durham couple which wrongly claimed the financial product they ultimately paid for was endorsed by the Institute of Professional Willwriters and a code approved by trading standards.

They were also told they would avoid having to pay care fees if they had to go into a home, if the property was put into a trust.

The couple felt overwhelmed during a visit by a company representative and felt he would not leave until they paid almost £2,800.

When the couple, from Ovington, near Barnard Castle, wrote to the company to cancel, their request and refund were refused.

Hesketh, 59, from Hawthorn Avenue, Holcombe Brook, in Greater Manchester, appeared before Newton Aycliffe magistrates last Wednesday, when he pleaded guilty to two charges of engaging in unfair commercial practice.

The court was told that from August to November of 2017, Hesketh was director of Silver Rose Marketing Limited, formerly Prestige Tax and Trust Services.

During that time, a representative of the company canvassed homes in County Durham and signed up the couple in Ovington.

The court was told the information provided was likely to mislead the average consumer into purchasing a trust.

In an interview, Hesketh said he was unaware where the information in the brochure had come from and that it was not deliberately misleading.

He said he “deeply regretted” what happened and how he had employed a fully qualified retired solicitor and trained consultants to oversee the selling of trusts as health issues saw him able to spend less time at work.

Hesketh was ordered to pay compensation to the couple of £2,795, costs of £1,877.28, a victim surcharge of £63 and a fine of £637 – a total of £5,372.28. He was also banned from being a company director for 24 months.

Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection at Durham County Council which brought the prosecution, said: “This was a particularly shocking example of a couple who were potentially vulnerable by virtue of their ages being mis-sold a financial product.

“We are very pleased the couple will be fully reimbursed and with the severe financial penalty imposed. We hope it will act as a deterrent to anyone tempted to engage in such practice, and send out a message that it will not be tolerated in County Durham."

She said anyone offered financial products on their doorstep should take time to think about it and seek advice.